In a first, a massage oil with your daily dose of vitamins
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In a first, a massage oil with your daily dose of vitamins

Technology that can systematically deliver multiple and individual nutrients such as vitamin D, folate or B12, and iron into the bloodstream via the skin through tiny liposome

mumbai Updated: Feb 04, 2019 08:05 IST
Snehal Fernandes
Snehal Fernandes
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,pills,oil
Experts said the effect of a poor diet and suboptimal nutritional status is multi-fold, especially during vulnerable stages such as adolescence, pregnancy and lactation. (Pic for representation)

Your daily dose of multivitamins and iron could soon be met by applying body massage oil, a skin moisturiser or even a lip salve, instead of popping pills regularly.

In a first, researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) have developed a technology that can systematically deliver multiple and individual nutrients such as vitamin D, folate or B12, and iron into the bloodstream via the skin through tiny liposome – vesicles that consist of a lipid found in soybeans and a naturally-occurring unsaturated fatty acid, and therefore free of cholesterol and ethanol.

The technology, which allows nutrients and iron in body massage oil for babies, skin moisturiser, lip balm, henna-based formulation, hair colour and multani-mitti face pack to be absorbed by the skin – has received US and Indian patents, and a second Indian patent has been filed.

“Our idea was to tackle nutrition deficiencies among women of child-bearing age and during pregnancies when there is an increased need for folic acid and iron,” said Dr Rinti Banerjee, chair and head, department of biosciences and bioengineering, IIT-B. “While oral pills are available, the overall compliance tends to be low. Multi-vitamin pills or iron supplements can’t take care of hidden deficiencies.”

Following successful laboratory experiments, preclinical trials, and independent skin-irritant tests, large-scale clinical trial for the multi-nutrient (multivitamins and iron) body massage oil is underway in Pune, and expected to end by this year. Similarly, animal studies and preliminary clinical non-irritation test have also been conducted for formulations. All multivitamin and iron formulations are within the Recommended Dietary Allowance – the quantity of nutrients in the diet that are required to maintain good health – and therefore can be used by anyone.

“This is an exciting, but upcoming field of nutritional metabolomics. While we have seen an influx of micronutrient patches in recent times, there is no real evidence to prove their efficacy outside of research settings,” said Shweta Khandelwal, nutrition epidemiologist, Public Health Foundation of India, who was not part of the study. “This idea has the potential, and merits deeper understanding and long-term studies.”

Experts said the effect of a poor diet and suboptimal nutritional status is multi-fold, especially during vulnerable stages such as adolescence, pregnancy and lactation. “Iron folic acid deficiency also affects the absorption of other vital macro and micronutrients, reduces immunity and makes the mother-child (especially the offspring) prone to developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular problems later in life,” said Khandelwal.

While the need for a solution was clear, the task before the IIT-B team was to develop a technology where the formulation can be absorbed by the stratum corneum, which is the outer layer of the skin. “That’s because the stratum corneum acts like a brick-and-mortar wall; a barrier that prevents any substance from entering the body through the skin,” said Banerjee.

Researchers developed a formulation comprising flexible soft materials loaded with nutrients that interact with barrier lipids in the uppermost layer of the skin. These biodegradable materials stabilised into various forms of universally-appealing cosmetics create temporary gaps that aid them to squeeze through all layers of skin, and liposomes eventually break down in the body. The nutrients then disperse systematically across the body through the bloodstream.

At present, IIT-B has identified an industry partner, and the process to license the technology for producing body massage oil has commenced

Work on developing body massage oil for babies was funded by Grand Challenges Canada, while the cosmetic-based formulation was funded by the Gates Foundation.

Researchers said they can create formulations of higher dose. “Our present formulation doesn’t claim to treat any disease, but is only preventive and promotes well-being,” said Banerjee. “There are nutritional deficiencies faced even in the developed world because of lifestyle pattern and eating the wrong food leading to malnutrition. So our innovation can be fine-tuned to also meet those market-needs.”

First Published: Feb 04, 2019 00:07 IST